The Fighting Irish are coming off a monumental win against their rival the Michigan Wolverines in Week 1. Notre Dame will be clashing with the Ball State Cardinals in their second game of the College Football Season. With the playoffs as their ultimate goal, the Irish will look to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2015. They will be taking on the in-state Cardinals for the first time ever.
Essential Game Info:
- Game Time: September 8th, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC
- Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
- Matchup: This will be the first meeting between Notre Dame and Ball State
- Current Odds: Notre Dame -34.5
- Weekend Events: The Football Pep Rally will take place Friday at 6:00 p.m. at Eddy Street Commons. There will be countless events the weekend of the game, for all the information visit http://gameday.nd.edu/events/
South Bend Weather Forecast
The current forecast for GameDay shows a 60% chance of rain with a high of 74 degrees and a low of 61. Below is a look at the next 5 days leading up to the game (this will automatically update to be the most recent 5 days throughout the week).
Ball State Details:
- Conference: Mid-American Conference (West Division)
- Head Coach: Mike Neu
- 2018 Record: 1-0
- 2017 Record: 2-10
Ball State Storylines:
Mike Neu rebuilding in Muncie. The 47-year-old, Indianapolis native Neu has been the Head Coach of the Ball State Cardinals since 2016. A former player for the Cardinals and recent New Orleans Saints Quarterbacks coach is trying to get the Cardinals to a bowl game after going a combined 6-18 the past two seasons.
Brady Hoke was 22-38 before his breakthrough in 2008 where the Cardinals went 12-1 and were ranked 12th at one point. For Neu, starting this season 1-0 was the easy part. The next two weeks he’ll be taking his team to South Bend and Bloomington to battle the Fighting Irish and then Indiana Hoosiers.
How good are the Cardinals? Last week the Ball State Cardinals started off the season with a 42 to 6 win against Central Connecticut. But that is hardly a benchmark. Last year, the Cardinals went 2-10 and finished last in the MAC. They’re hoping to have a bounce back season in 2018, now that their starting quarterback is healthy.
Ball State is led by starting quarterback, Riley Neal. Neal has been the starting quarterback for the Cardinals since his freshman year in 2015. Unfortunately, he only played in 3 games in 2017, due to a season-ending injury. Riley Neal ranks 5th all-time in career passing yards (5,476) at Ball State. He has even received attention from the NFL and is listed as one of the best quarterbacks in the country outside the power 5 conferences.
The Senior quarterback went 23 of 30 with 2 touchdowns through the air in Week 1 against Central Connecticut. He also tallied 37 yards on the ground and a touchdown on 6 carries. It is evident that Riley Neal is a strong dual threat for the Ball State Cardinals. Not having Neal was a major reason that the team went 2-10 last fall.
Notre Dame Storylines
Notre Dame Developing Passing Attack. Last year when the Irish took on Miami of Ohio (another MAC School), they focused on the passing game. I suspect that will be the case again this week. Once Notre Dame builds a lead, look for Offensive Coordinator Chip Long to take advantage of opportunities to build Wimbush’s confidence through the air.
Will Ian Book and Phil Jurkovec see action? If the game goes as planned, expect to see Ian Book get a lot of reps during the second half of this matchup. Whether or not Jurkovec sees the field is the big question. Kelly has said numerous times that Phil Jurkovec will see action this season. Now that players can play in up to four games and still maintain a year of eligibility, I don’t see why not.
The vaunted Irish Defense. All season long the media has been talking about how great the Michigan Defense was going to be. Anyone who watched the game last week knows that the Fighting Irish Defense stole the show. It wasn’t a specific position group either, it was the entire Defense.
Te’von Coney led the defense with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. Khalid Kareem had a breakout game with 9 tackles and 2 sacks. Along the defensive line, Jerry Tillery wreaked havoc with 3 tackles, 1 for loss, and a sack. Newcomer, Alohi Gilman had 7 tackles on the day for the Irish. Just to name a few of the great performances on defense.
Head to Head Matchups
Notre Dame Offense vs. Ball State Defense. This matchup starts at the offensive line. Notre Dame as usual will out matchup Ball State’s Defensive Line. Complimenting the big boys upfront will be the size and speed of the Irish Offense. One of the best defenses in the country had trouble containing Wimbush and his receivers last week. I don’t expect the Ball State Defense to contain the Fighting Irish.
Advantage Notre Dame
Ball State Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense. If the Michigan Wolverines had trouble with this Irish Defense, I don’t see any reason why the Ball State Cardinals will have any success. Last weekend Notre Dame showed the country just how good they have become under Clark Lea. From the Defensive Line, to the linebackers, and secondary, this Notre Dame Defense has a lot of experience and talent.
Ball State’s quarterback Riley Neal is one of the best, but he won’t have enough support to have sustained success.
Advantage Notre Dame
Special Teams. After last week’s performance, I’m giving the slight edge to Ball State. Do I expect Notre Dame’s Special Teams to improve by next week? Yes. But there were too many mistakes by the Irish for me to give them the advantage. A bad punt cost the Irish 3 points. Poor kickoff coverage cost Notre Dame 7 points on a kick return. Finally, a kickoff out of bounds gave the Wolverines starting field position at the 35-yard line.
I expect Notre Dame to get these problems fixed against Ball State this week, but I’ve got to see the adjustments before I give them the advantage in special teams moving forward.
Advantage Ball State
Notre Dame is coming off an impressive win under the lights against the Michigan Wolverines. I see this game being quite similar to the Miami of Ohio matchup last year. Ball State will be amped for this game and the Cardinals are led by a good quarterback looking to make a statement to the NFL this Saturday.
However, the Irish are the far superior team and will not overlook Ball State.
The passing game showed signs of improvement during week 1, and look for the Irish to pass even more against the Cardinals. This will be a week of development and improvement. Although Notre Dame has one of the best defenses in the country, I expect Ball State to score 13 points as Notre Dame tries to kill time during the second half and Kelly puts in the backups.
Prediction: Notre Dame 49 Ball State 13